The population of India is over 1.2 billion yet the childless are still stigmatised

By Nina Steele 

Recently, I was made aware of the story of a young Indian couple who committed suicide because they were unable to have children. Although I was naturally sad, I wasn’t surprised. In Indian culture, as many people of Indian descent have confirmed to me, not being able to conceive, is the worst fate that can befall a person.

Why you may ask, does a country of over 1.2 billion people still stigmatise those who cannot procreate, when according to some estimates, as much as 270 million of its citizens live in extreme poverty? It makes no sense at all.

I went on holiday to India 5 years ago, and I was shocked by how the poor live. Being originally from Africa, I believed that nothing could shock me. I was wrong. I saw entire families living on the street and using the pavement to relieve themselves.

The lack of proper sanitation is a real problem in India as described in this Guardian article: ‘at least 636 million Indians lack toilets, according to the latest census data, a crisis that contributes to disease, childhood malnutrition, loss of economic output and, as highlighted recently, violence against women’.

It beggars belief therefore that a country with such pressing social issues still encourages more people to have children. Of course it is all to do with culture.

My beef is with politicians. It is their duty to not only encourage people to have less children in order for the country to deal with the issues it already faces, but equally, they should actively try to change people’s attitude toward those who cannot or choose not to have children.

Someone on social media recently described how bad the stigma against childless people can be. Among the things she said was: “It is difficult in Indian culture… you are considered unlucky. You have to sit apart at religious functions, you cannot go and do things and any children’s function you better stay away as you are said to have the ” evil eye” . Even Hindu scriptures say you cannot attain moksh or salvation if you do not have a son. So if you are religious it is an esp difficult life”. She goes on to say: “Feels sad when everyone around is going for functions but you are not invited. Feels awful when you are told your childlessness is bcos of your last births sins. Feels terrible when you don’t get an equal share of family property cos you have no one of the” blood” to pass it to”.

I can only hope that attitudes will change at some point. And it surely is desperately needed.

Childless couples

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